You have broken the bank on your headshots and reel footage, your resume is fully revamped, and your website looks pretty dazzling if you do say so yourself. Now it seems there’s another marketing tool you have to add to the business folder in your acting kit: a cover letter. What in the name of Meryl Streep is that?
While it may seem like another sigh-inducing chore to lump on your brimming plate, a cover letter is actually an actor’s ally. Sending one to an agent or casting director gives you an extra chance to exhibit not only your talent, but your personality. Read on to find out how you can write an amazing one that showcases the star you are!
What Is an Acting Cover Letter?
Essentially an acting cover letter is like any other cover letter. It’s a complimentary document to your regular job submission that briefly expands on who you are, relevant projects you’ve done and, ultimately, exemplifies why you’re the best fit out there. When written correctly, it will at the very least be the jumping point for building a stronger business relationship.
When Do I Need a Cover Letter?
Acting cover letters are used on several occasions, including, but not limited to these three:
- When seeking representation.
Cover letters are typically required when an actor submits to be represented by an agent or manager. Nowadays, the cover letter can be akin to the email you send in introducing yourself. Generally the goal is to try and book a meeting.
- When submitting for acting jobs.
Mini cover letters are employed when actors submit for jobs. While you don’t always need to have one, writing a paragraph that introduces yourself and why you’re the best for the gig will only give you a leg up. Most major actor submission sites like Actors Access and Casting Networks have a submission notes section where you can do this. These should be kept as short as possible.
- When applying for acting schools.
While actors aren’t always applying to institutions, many of them require some sort of letter to get in. Though the goal is different, the content is generally the same.
Are There Industry Standards with Length Etc.?
Like everything else in the entertainment industry, a cover letter is subjective. Some recipients may prefer professional writing, while you may stand out to others by leaning into a quirkier or more personal style. However, across the board there’s one requirement that’s clear: brevity.
- Approximate Length: One page. Do your best to stay under 400 words. The shorter the letter appears at first glance to the recipient – who know doubt receives countless submissions a day – the more likely they will read it. However, for those actor submission notes we discussed prior, you’ll want to keep it under a paragraph.
- 3 Standards to Include:
1. An introduction paragraph.
2. Your relevant experience.
3. An action-provoking conclusion.
- Tips for Digital Cover Letters: Though you always want to send your photos and resume, a little tip is to avoid sending large files. If you send extremely high quality headshots as an attachment you run the risk of getting sent to spam.
Now, How Do I Actually Write a Cover Letter That Stands Out?
To be an actor is to be an auditioner. Acting is a rare profession in that it puts a small percentage of talent through a revolving door of interviews. In an industry brimming with vying hopefuls, it’s a privilege for actors to even be called in for auditions. A cover letter increases your chances.
5 Steps to Drafting Your Dream Cover Letter
#1 Address a specific recipient
You always want to address a specific person. Using “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Team” is a one way ticket to the slosh pile. Addressing a specific person increases your chances of getting read.
While we’re literally on the subject, do your research and cater the entire letter to that specific person. You can of course have your general cover letter ready to go, but it should always be tweaked to better intrigue your reader.
#2 Introduce yourself and your goal
Briefly state who you are and your intention for the letter whether it’s to gain representation or to play a specific role. If the person you’re addressing is highly regarded or you’ve recently admired their work, include that here. A little flattery never hurts – just don’t overdo it. You never want to seem desperate.
“I’m Robert Peterpaul, a quirky performer reaching out to be considered for Seymour in your upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors.”
You can also include a personal connection here. For instance, if you’ve been referred by someone or have a special connection to the company or the project.
#3 Expand on your relevant experience
After the intro paragraph, start the next one by hooking the reader into your acting journey. The goal is to entice them to learn more about you and why you’re the one for the gig!
“I was fortunate to recently star in another Alan Menken show…” (connects to your experience)
Go on to elaborate about your background and any relevant experience you may have had. For example: If you’re auditioning for a comedy and have trained in improv or other comedic stylings, include that here. You’ll also want to include some of your most notable credits. If you’re sending this in the body of the email, you can even feel free to link to relevant footage! Do your best to show the recipient you are experienced.
If you don’t have much professional experience yet, that’s ok! Tap into your life experience. Speak from the heart and discuss why this specific part or agency or school speaks to you. Continuing on the Little Shop of Horrors train: perhaps your family owns a florist shop and you’ve dabbled in exotic plants. Flaunt the things that are uniquely you.
#4 Hit it home with an action-provoking conclusion
Your final paragraph should wrap things up in a graceful bow. Reiterate your goal in a fresh way and guide the reader to next look at your materials. Think of this portion of the cover letter like the small blurb on the back of the book. We want them to go and read the book!
“Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter. I’ve included my headshots, resume and a link to my website if you’d like to learn more. I look forward to hearing back from you soon!”
#5 The sign-off
Always include a professional signature that has your titles and website underneath. When you send a cover letter in the body of an email, always link to your website. Some actors also prefer to put an inspiring quote beneath their signature. This isn’t necessary, but is another way for you to personalize the whole thing.
Actor / Singer / Writer
As with all of your marketing materials, you want to lead with the best version of yourself. The upside of a cover letter is that it’s quite possibly the easiest material to change, so let it evolve as you grow as both a performer and a person. In the end, if you lead with authenticity, you can’t go wrong.
An exercise to try out before sending the letter: read it through as if you are the recipient. Would you want to work with this person if you received the letter? If it seems both professional and interesting to you, you’re ready to go!